MEET THE DEVELOPER
You have (never) been to this concert
We sat down with Rayark to talk about Cytus 2
Can you hear me?
Brain farts. They happen. Think of the last time you walked into a room only to not remember why, or that day you drew a blank on your friend’s name. Our brains are not as reliable as we think.
In 2012, Taiwanese developer Rayark released Cytus to critical acclaim. Rayark deviates from their winning formula with Cytus II to weave together something new – a strange, convoluted tale of collective memory.
The vanished concert
A collaborative effort between Rayark’s Japan and Taiwan studios, the game’s narrative is so nuanced and complex that Executive Producer Ming-yang Yu admits he still has trouble explaining it.
“Even our Japanese team had a hard time wrapping their heads around it, which was something we learnt about deep in the development cycle,” says Yu. “It then took us a week of meetings to get them really in sync with our concept.”
Set in a future where everything is hyperconnected, Cytus II is about a concert that has seemingly vanished from all records and memories. Things are set in motion with a post to an internet message board containing traces of evidence the concert occurred.
The discovery is originally met with scepticism, but as the post gains attention, more people claim they remember the event. Some even say they attended it.
Despite accusations of an internet hoax, discussion continues to grow. Soon, it begins to appear the concert really took place. Could thousands of people be suffering from a collective memory lapse?
Interacting with music
To get the full story, players will have to piece together information they gather from characters’ social media accounts. That is, of course, after they’ve cleared the game’s levels.
Music-based games have predominately been a console and arcade affair. Since they often require a significant time investment to become proficient, music games often regarded as something for the hardcore, more dedicated gamers, regardless of their level of difficulty.
Rayark is fully aware that not all iOS users are Beatmania veterans, so they made sure players of all skill levels could properly enjoy Cytus II. This way, hardcore gamers can test their mettle on ‘Chaos’ difficulty, while more casual players can explore other settings and find an appropriate skill level.
The controls can be boiled down to two actions: Players must either tap the dots or performs drags to the beat. The specific arrangements of these dots (called ‘notes’ in-game) are crucial to level design. Yu explains the job was given to the most tasteful and talented people on the team. “These design choices affect the game’s fluidity and difficulty. And we like to play around with these notes and hide information in them, or even make them react with the lyrics of the song as it plays in the background.”
So where does the music come from?
Rayark’s developers sifted through more than 1,000 submissions. Only a hundred or so made the cut. Some of them went into Deemo and VOEZ, while others were picked for Cytus II.
What makes Cytus II’s soundtrack so special is that it also features many local Taiwanese artists. We’re not talking about A-list celebs signed to massive labels, but talents with a small, loyal following from the underground music scene. By featuring their music in Cytus II, Rayark gives local artists a chance to perform to a potentially massive audience.
As Rayark is still writing more characters into the game, an even a more diverse soundtrack is yet to come. Yu says classical Japanese and Chinese music are two genres that may make it into the game soon. The game also has a multiplayer mode that allows players to team up and battle for high scores.
We hope Cytus II can be more than just a music game.
Ming-yang Yu, the CEO of Rayark
Rayark hid a vague, thought-provoking story in Cytus. In Deemo, Rayark drove the plot with a more cinematic experience. Later, VOEZ used diary entries describing events the protagonist and players experience together to propel the narrative.
While Rayark has grown from industry newcomer to battle-hardened game developer, Yu explains Cytus II still remains an ambitious undertaking. “Cytus has more than 10 million downloads. We can’t afford to rehash old content and fall short of the expectations of so many players.”
From the get go, Rayark wanted to build upon the solid foundations it has laid over the years to create a music game that transcends the genre.
On a final note, you are probably wondering how Cytus II is related to the original.
All we can tell you is: you already have the answers. Just like back at that concert.